Your Weekend at the Movies, Suckers

03/25/2011 9:53 AM |

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Sucker Punch: Something that nagged me a lot while watching Sucker Punch, apart from the regular naggings of “this is quite enjoyable” and “but is it any good?!” is that Zack Snyder is a geekier (and less racist/homophobic, I think) Michael Bay. Maybe this comparison has been made countless times; I feel like I read something where Snyder was thrown in with Brett Ratner, J.J. Abrams, and possibly Bay: Amblin-fed movie brats who can only traffic in movie-movie regurgitated kiddie-level pulp (first hole in this theory: the Abrams Star Trek is mostly awesome. But enough about that). But my reaction to the idea of Sucker Punch was similar to my reaction to Bay doing Transformers movies: Good. This is right in his wheelhouse, and will also keep him from adapting something I care even a little bit about, like Superman.

And just as the Transformers movies are sort of simultaneously the best and worst of Bay, the straight shot of Zack Snyder you get in Sucker Punch isn’t as unambiguously fanboy-awesome as you might hope (note: this movie is much better than Transformers). It turns out Snyder’s best qualities—his energy, his eye for spectacle, his more surreal and less faux-realistic uses of CGI—may be inseparable from what I assumed was his tendency to simplify complex work like Watchmen. Sucker Punch has an already-simple idea, which he overcomplicates and oversimplifies all at once; you can read more about it in my review. But all of my misgivings, I enjoyed watching Sucker Punch and it bothered me far less than his weird combined reverence for and misunderstanding of Watchmen. This is sort of similar to how little I care if Bay “ruins” the ever-loving crap out of the Transformers franchise, with one crucial, surprise difference: I think there may have been a great (or at least extremely rewatchable) movie lurking inside Sucker Punch. The mixed feelings won’t stop here: Snyder’s next project is, you guessed it, Superman.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules: For what it’s worth, I prefer this sequel to the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It still has that 20th Century Fox sitcom sheen, and still uses a kid-movie director (in this case animation vet David Bowers) to emphasize the cartooniness of the comics-like book series, ignoring the way Jeff Kinney’s sparse drawings ensure that his work doesn’t go way over the top, and to make a middle-school story more palatable for an even-younger audience. And I still didn’t find Zachary Gordon particularly charming as the somewhat craven and dopey Greg Heffley (is he really wimpy, or is he just a jerk without muscles?). But given the additional focus on Greg’s obnoxious older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick, overdoing it at times), the movie is surprisingly sweet, and Greg and Rodrick both come out more likable than they did in the amusing but somewhat clumsy original. Rodrick Rules is funnier and sweeter than its predecessor, although its greatest service may still be either illustrating the comparable pleasures of reading to its young fanbase, or encouraging parents to maybe take their eleven-year-olds to something not marketed directly at them. Still, the eleven-year-olds could do a lot worse.

Peep World: Normally, I’d let a tiny and deservedly unhyped movie that will play IFC Center for a week or two and is probably available On Demand or something pass without much mention; it gives me no pleasure to let anyone know that a movie like Peep World kind of sucks. But just in case your interest is piqued by an eclectic, capable cast that includes Sarah Silverman, Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson, Taraji P. Henson, and Lesley Anne Warren: sorry, this movie will mainly remind you of how much you like The Royal Tenenbaums and/or Arrested Development. Yes, it’s another dysfunctional family given the dark-indie-comedy treatment, a genre that, given the pushed boundaries of cable television, inches closer to genuine bad-sitcom territory with almost every entry. This one may induce nostalgia (at least among those overfamiliar with this subgenre) for the middling-at-best likes of, oh, I don’t know, the 2004 movie Eulogy. Back in Peep World, though, Silverman has some funny lines, and Wilson and Henson have cute, unlikely chemistry, but mostly it’s just confrontations and bad dick jokes. It also lists a running time of 89 minutes everywhere on the internet, but I swear to you that it had barely crested seventy-five when the credits rolled. I appreciate the brevity, but it’s not enough.